For 17 years, Flamingo Gardens has gathered plant experts, landscapers, and other gardening connoisseurs to its annual festival. This year, the Broward Bonsai Society joins in the fun with an exhibition of the varied shapes and levels of perfection its miniature trees can hold. Displays from Alexander Farms, Greenhouse Orchids, and other vendors entice the eyes while guests wander about, taking in colorful performances from butterfly stilt-walkers and West African drummers. At the Butterfly Encounter, guests learn lepidopterist lore from expert Mike Rich while feeding live butterflies and teaching them about the updated food pyramid.
Wee ones, meanwhile, can head to the Kids Gardening Zone to decorate their own pots and plant a seed or romp through the gardens on a scavenger hunt. Plant experts also hold classes and demonstrations, including "Mounting Orchids & Basic Orchid Culture," and take guests on guided tours through the botanical gardens.
For twenty terrifying nights this fall, the normally tranquil confines of Watson Island will be visited by an ancient evil and the malevolent modern forces that awakened it. Designed by the frightmasters that brought you the award-winning Festival of Souls?which was voted the scariest haunted house in Florida by HauntWorld.com?Terror in the Jungle transforms Jungle Island into a massive, interactive haunted experience. Visitors enter a jungle beset by toxin-infused beasts, shambling zombies, and wrathful gods bent on punishing any mortal who dares wander the undergrowth. After navigating five acres of dense pathways, visitors arrive at the main event: the Ruins Pyramid Haunted House, a 10,000 square foot temple of unimaginable evil and bone-chilling scares.
Like a great scary movie, Terror in the Jungle comes with a back story that sets up the fright within. The story begins on 12/21/2012, a day purported to mark the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar. As the world woke to yet another day on Earth, the prophesy manifested itself in an unexpected way. In the skies above Mexico, a cargo plane transporting hazardous materials from a government research lab faltered, crashing into the ruins of an ancient, forgotten city. The toxins on board seeped into the surrounding environment, mutating plants and people alike. Locals entreated the old gods for help, but found only retribution; insulted by mankind's disregard for life and nature, the deities unleashed the Hunter, a demon bent on wiping out any human in its path.
It is now 2014. The Mexican government, desperate for answers about the crash and its aftermath, has uncovered rumors of ecological unrest deep within a remote jungle. Now, government officials and Hazmat containment specialists are gathered at the entrance to the jungle, preparing to clean up their catastrophic mess. Little do they know that these trees conceal overgrown beasts, risen undead, and a supernatural force more powerful than anything they've ever encountered.
Imagine standing eye level with a giraffe, holding out your arm for parrots to land on, or touching the head of an endangered rhino. At Zoo Miami, these experiences happen every day, fulfilling the institution's mission of encouraging the conservation of wildlife. More than 2,000 animals?from chimps to tigers to koalas?populate the African exhibit, Asian exhibit, and Australian exhibit. Many of the individual exhibitions don't use cages, but are instead bound by moats throughout more than three miles of walking trails. This setup allows guests to get closer to animals as they romp in their habitats. More than 1,200 plant species populate these habitats, which are re-creations of the animals' native environments.
Guests can use free WiFi to download a free mobile app for iPhones and Androids. The app then delivers functions such as location beacons so that family members keep track of one another, show times, and GPS-enabled maps that show the nearest dining venue or restroom. Transportation options within the zoo range from an air-conditioned monorail to tram tours, which provide insights such as which animals have recently had babies, what they named the babies, and each baby's first word. Developed specifically for kids, a children's zoo offers camel rides and a playground.
Lion Country Safari is a zoo with no cages. Instead, many of the 900 animals, including the largest zebra herd outside of Africa, roam its 320 acres freely. During drive-through safaris, cars tour seven sections of the preserve?which represent different areas such as western Zimbabwe and the Serengeti?to see llamas, asiatic water buffalo, chimpanzees, and white rhinoceros. Lions have a section all to themselves so that they don't prey on other animals or disturb them with giggles from the pride's late-night slumber parties.
In addition to the four-mile drive, Lion Country Safari's Safari World allows guests to explore rides and attractions as they visit with animals on foot. They can feed giraffes, practice animal-massage techniques at the petting zoo, or hop on the carousel next to Lake Shanalee's paddleboat rides. After kids splash through the interactive Safari Splash waterpark, they can zoom down two brand-new water slides, hop onto the ferris wheel, or ask exotic birds for advice on how to fly.
Upon entering The Native Village, before you even spot a loitering tortoise or run your finger across the scales of a baby alligator, you'll catch a whiff of wood fire. That scent acts as a drifting reminder of the village's purpose, which is to give visitors a glimpse into how the Seminoles lived in the Everglades during the early 1900s.
For more than 30 years, The Native Village has educated guests with guided tours and live demonstrations of gator wrestling and snake handling. Today, you can stop by the property's Big Oak habitat, where alligators, caimans, and crocodiles live side by side and, consequently, have to share the same tube of toothpaste. At the Gator Hole, Lunge?a 13-foot, 1,000-pound bull alligator?stuns onlookers but doesn't faze the wrestlers wrangling him into submission with their bare hands. But the village is home to cute creatures, too. You can get your daily dose of awws by visiting Chain Saw the prairie dog, Ghost the fox, and a whole roster of other mammals, reptiles, fish, and fowl that lived alongside the early 20th-century Seminoles.
As they observe the vibrant exhibits of aquatic life inside the Miami Seaquarium, many guests don't realize that they are walking through a movie set and a hospital. In the onsite lagoon, bottlenose dolphins swim through waters once traversed by Flipper, who filmed several television episodes and films at the venue. The Seaquarium is also recognized as a manatee critical care facility. Its staff has accomplished several historic treatments, including monitoring the conception and arrival of the first manatee born under human care and conducting the first manatee neurological surgery.
These facets of the Seaquarium—along with its many conservation efforts, educational programs, and shows—underscore a united commitment to wildlife consciousness. The animal attractions enable visitors to witness the allure and fragility of oceanic fauna up close, whether they are petting the back of a stingray or washing a dress shirt on the rough back of an 8-foot nile crocodile. Special encounters decrease the distance even further, sending patrons on underwater Sea Treks through the reef display or helping them to lead marine-mammal training routines.
It's hard to pinpoint the biggest personality inside the Seaquarium tanks, but Lolita the killer whale—who performs daily alongside pacific white-sided dolphins—claims the title of heaviest, period. On the other end of the scale, macaws and cockatiels perch around the Tropical Wings section of the park, and endangered sea turtles lounge at Discovery Bay. Elsewhere, a watery playground and three-story ropes course keep legs from growing too wobbly after a trip to Shark Channel or a smooch from a sea lion.